“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” Eckhart Tolle
“Once I am making enough money to pay my bills and take a nice vacation each year, then I will be happy.”
“Once I find that perfect partner and can start a family, then I will be happy.”
“Once I get that promotion, then I will be happy.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
The tendency to assume what is coming will improve how you feel is very common. It also means that you could miss out on the joy available to you right now if you were willing to pay closer attention. Research has demonstrated that human beings are lousy at trying to pay attention to two things at once. Contrary to popular misconception, we are not good multi-taskers. If you have your mind on what you wish would happen, you are missing out on what actually is happening.
Perhaps your present is less than ideal. Maybe you are navigating a time of grief, stress, or difficulty in a relationship. This can make thinking about a future time without those painful experiences very tempting. If you are thinking about that next job, that next relationship, that next vacation it can make an unpleasant present easier to tolerate. However, while you are focused on the good thing you think will make you feel better, you could be missing the good that is there already. Being present means noticing and appreciating the way your needs are being met right now.
Think about a time in the past when you were convinced that if you achieved something or had a particular experience that you would finally be happy. When you got what it was that you wanted, what happened? If you are like most people you were happy for a few moments, or hours, or even days and then you started wanting the next thing.
We are human and part of being human is having desires. The question is how do we balance having the desire with not allowing it to interfere with our enjoyment of the present moment? Having goals and desires are great, but when you are so focused on them that you are missing what is happening now, you could end up missing a great deal of your life. You could spend every day, unhappy with “here” and thinking being “there” will be so much better. Life is about the journey. It is not supposed to be a series of destinations. As you move through this week, practice catching yourself when you think “there” is better than “here” and find a little gratitude in the present moment.
I have over 15 years of experience of working with individuals and families, first in child welfare, and then in mental health counseling. I have a Ph. D in Counseling, and am an Interfaith Minister. I work with clients desiring to include all of the aspects of the self in therapy-emotional and spiritual.